Labor 'rebels' step up pressure on leader Barak

As Yacimovich targets budget, Paz-Pines accuses party leader of trying to 'silence him with payoffs.'

yacimovich 224.88 (photo credit: Knesset Website)
yacimovich 224.88
(photo credit: Knesset Website)
Days before the Knesset convenes to open its summer session, the Labor rebels stepped up their attacks Thursday against party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and against the coalition in which they are nominally members. Less than a day after MK Shelly Yacimovich campaigned to raise support for her opposition to the Finance Ministry's economic arrangements bill for the coming year, MK Ophir Paz-Pines lashed out at Barak, alleging that the chairman "will not stop at any means, including political payoffs, in order to trample any real dialogue within the party" - a charge hotly denied by Barak's supporters. Paz-Pines said that Barak had tried to "buy his silence" by appointing him to the plum position of chairman of the prestigious Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Until now, seven out of Labor's 13 MKs have already received ministerial or deputy-ministerial positions in the government. Of the remaining six, a conspicuous four are labor "rebels" - Paz-Pines, Yacimovich, Amir Peretz and Eitan Cabel. Yacimovich's leak of the controversial economic arrangements bill to the public continued to make headlines Thursday, after her official web site posted the entire 222-page text of the bill and called on readers to examine parts of it that dealt directly with fields with which they were familiar. Based on the outpouring of responses posted to the site, viewers examined a number of subheadings - including education, budget cuts for IDF widows and orphans, and making the idf's rehabilitation services more "efficient." Yacimovich attacked the bill asa "wild and absurd collection of hundreds of violent decisions, many of which have no relation to the budget." Yacimovich, a former journalist, "leaked" the bill in its draft form - and argued in leaking it to the general public that the public should be aware of the Finance Ministry's plans. "Layoffs, privatizations, destruction of the public service, closure of all the institutes for professional certification, privatization of homes for the mentally disabled, establishing a private new health fund only for the rich, heavy-handed intervention in educational content - there is no limit," complained Yacimovich in a letter to her supporters posted on the site. Among the changes proposed in the law are an NIS 68 increase in benefits to the elderly, tighter restrictions on the employment of foreign workers in geriatric care and agriculture, forbidding the employment of foreign workers in restaurants and construction, and a major reduction in the tax on dividends. Soldiers injured outside the line of duty will no longer be rehabilitated by the Defense Ministry, but rather by the National Insurance Institute. Similarly, payments to families of soldiers killed during their military service but not "in the course of military or security activity" will be reassigned from the Defense Ministry to the NII. The Finance Ministry argued that less than a quarter of IDF disabled veterans were wounded in the course of military operations, and only 11% of those killed were killed during military operations. Reassigning financial responsibility for the remaining cases to the NII would - the Finance Ministry argues - allow greater sums of money to go to seriously injured veterans.